The properties of play dough and other malleable materials make it fun for investigation and exploration as well as secretly building up strength in all the tiny hand muscles and tendons, making them ready for pencil and scissor control later on.
Poking in objects and pulling them out of play dough strengthens hand muscles and eye co-ordination. Tactile play
encourages children to e squash, squeeze, roll, flatten, chop, cut, score it, poke it! Each one of these different actions aids fine motor development in a different way, not to mention hand-eye co-ordination and general concentration.
Imagination and Creativity:
Adding open ended play items to add to the mix, play dough develops imaginative play and children can represent their world/ A jar of candles and cupcakes cases leads naturally to birthday party role-play, counting out candles and singing! Children can make chocolates and sweets in a sweet shop, cakes and bread in a bakery, faces, creatures, animals. The list is as endless as a child’s imagination!
Calming and soothing:
As any adult who has played with dough can tell you, the effects of all that squeezing and pummeling are great for stress relief and can feel extremely therapeutic! Little children can struggle to express their emotions and using dough while talking and singing can really help that process.
Science and Discovery:
The actual act of making the play dough can lead to lots of questioning and prediction skills. Here we have some solid materials (flour, salt etc) to which we are going to add some liquids (oil, water.) What do you think will happen? What can we make? The child gets to explore and observe the changing state of materials in a hands-on way, and be filled with wonder as the bowl of unrelated ingredients comes together to form a sticky then smooth and squishy ball of dough! We often take these things for granted, but in the eyes and hands of a child that’s quite some transformation!
Maths and Literacy Opportunities:
In more focused play, play dough can be used as a fantastic way to practise letter and number work. Children can spell out their own name, make numbers, form shapes, compare lengths/ thicknesses/ weights, count out rolled balls to match numeral cards, match and sort by colour and SO many more ideas too!
Following a recipe and instructions, counting out cups, measuring out ingredients, measuring time in the microwave, portioning out the dough amongst friends, are all meaningful and important experiences too!